A Southern Strait

Excerpt

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Rebecca shivered, focusing on the track ahead once more. I’m going to Mason Bay, not Mordor. The tramp was taking longer than she’d thought, and she was glad when the scrub became tussock, giving her a broad view over the plain. In the distance a large sand dune loomed over the landscape, and she watched it draw closer as the track narrowed up and over an incline. Her gaze swung around as she sensed movement, her instinct telling her it was too big for a kiwi.
“Seen any deer?” Cold blue eyes fixed on her.
“Seen any kiwis?” she countered.
He looked at the sky and then back at her.
“They can’t fly,” she said, mutinous.
“I think I know that.” He shook his head. “You’re as bad as those bloody kids.” He unobtrusively adjusted the rifle slung over his shoulder, the glint of his wedding band catching her eye.
“You don’t need to hide your rifle,” she said quickly. “I mean, my brother hunts.” She blushed.
“So does mine.”
She wondered if she’d imagined his amusement. Probably not. She pulled at her new long-sleeved top. “I haven’t seen any deer.”
“I’ve just walked up the track, but now I’ve come back and seen their sign.” He gestured at the mud and Rebecca thought she could see hoof prints. “The bloody thing was probably walking behind me.”
“Bugger.”
His eyes narrowed. “Are you winding me up?”
“Of course not.” Her smile was wide. “Anyway, I’d better keep going.” Otherwise I’ll stand here staring at you. She wrenched her gaze away and stepped around him, her arm brushing his torso. With a murmured apology she glanced up at him, unprepared for his expression.
“I’ve always cursed these narrow tracks,” he murmured. “Not today.” The coldness left his face, transforming it.
Rebecca inclined her head, the warm glow of his compliment settling over her. “I thought seeing a kiwi would be the highlight,” she replied softly. She hesitated. “But not today.”
“High praise indeed.” His grin took her by surprise. “But you don’t have to choose between us.” He indicated behind her. “Because I spy with my little eye, something beginning with K.” She swiveled to look where he’d indicated. When she finally looked back to where he’d been standing he’d disappeared as soundlessly as he’d arrived.

Characters

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Heath

Heath Morgan is caught in the drift net of the past, haunted by his wife’s death, and his own betrayal of the ocean he loves. Life is an existence in a self-made prison as he struggles to return to an even keel without the woman and career he loved.

Saving Rebecca Ryan is the first step towards redemption, but sometimes the rocks of redemption are not as safe as they seem. The currents of chance that took him towards Rebecca seem to also be pulling him away from her, as their union struggles with the ghost of her marriage, the reasons for its collapse, and the final atonement that Heath feels he must give.

Rebecca

Moving to Wellington should have meant everything – a husband, a career, a family – would happen for Rebecca Ryan. And it did. Except for the last part. Which meant the husband disappeared as well. A trip south and an unpredictable storm means Rebecca needs saving, and Heath Morgan is just the guy to do it.

A night in a hunting hut trying to survive is one thing, but when they meet up in the real world Rebecca finds that not only is she in love, but she’s also in a competition to bring Heath into the present before the past claims him utterly. A competition where the only competitors are a giant seabird surrounded by myth, and the memory of Heath’s wife. And Rebecca. Wish her luck!

Settings

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A Southern Strait is Book 3 in my “Across the Strait” series. It’s set in southern New Zealand – Kaikoura, Central Otago, and Stewart Island all feature. These beautiful areas are an ideal setting for a New Zealand romance novel, offering remoteness, together with gorgeous and unique scenery.

A Southern Strait is based around the themes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” first published in 1798 (a revised version was printed in 1817). The poem is written around the story of a mariner [sailor] who tells wedding guests his tale of going to sea, being caught in a storm, and eventually killing an albatross before returning to land amid various supernatural happenings. Broadly, this poem refers to themes of the environment (the importance of maintaining a balance in the natural world), pennace, salvation, and guilt. These are the themes that are in my story, as Heath struggles to overcome the death of his wife and the compromise of his principles as he tried to save her.

Rebecca is dealing with the toll of a marriage broken by the reality of her infertility, and her own doubts about whether Heath can fully commit to her. Writing this book and reading various accounts of what infertility can mean to different people, and the fear, disappointment and heartbreak that it causes, was difficult at times as I saw the perspectives of people who cannot, even with the intervention of science, have what they want most – a family. Yet there are so many definitions of that word…and I hope I have been able to portray Rebecca’s emotional journey in a realistic way. I also wanted to avoid the “miracle baby” scenario that seem to pop up in so many fiction books that deal with infertility – if only real life was as simple as that!

The geographic locations referred to in A Southern Strait do exist although the situations and people referred to in those settings are totally fictitious. The references to the HMNZS Wellington are based on public reporting of its transport of compliance inspectors to Antarctic waters [also referred to in New Zealand Geographic and the magazine Navy Today], and its assistance and goodwill visits to Kaikoura after the 2016 earthquake. The reference to Sea Shepherd and its vessel visiting Kaikoura is purely fictional and is not based on any actual visit by a Sea Shepherd vessel to Kaikoura or to any other port. Likewise the references to JEM (which many Stewart Islanders will recognise!) are of course a reflection of that aircraft’s service to hunters and travellers, but the incidents themselves are wholly fictional.

Map

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Acknowledgments

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A Southern Strait also refers to environmental crime and conservation, and my decision to write about this was inspired and assisted by the article “Forbidden Catch” published in the New Zealand Geographic magazine.

Because of the themes and settings in this book I have spoken with a number of people and organisations to research what I wanted to write about. All of them have been very generous with their time and assistance – thank you to the keepers of the Perano Whaling Station, Sea Shepherd, Project Jonah, Stewart Island Flights.

New Zealand Geographic magazine, the Royal New Zealand Navy, Professor Liz Slooten of the University of Otago, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and the Stewart Island Promotion Association.

I have tried to do justice to the information you all gave me, and as authors always say, any errors are mine!